Sunday, September 23, 2007

Alok's book tag

This one's been doing the rounds for some time, and when Alok lazily tagged everyone who's on his sidebar, or anyone who has ever commented on his blog, I thought, what fun, so long a sI can vary things a bit here and there.

So, here I go.

Total number of books owned

Let's start with the tough ones, why don't we. I don't know, but somewhere in the region of 3-4,000 is what I'm guessing.

I had a wonderful opportunity that I didn't take, to count about a year ago when I took out every book from every shelf, cupboard, kitchen shelf and coffee table there is, dusted all of 'em, cleaned the shelves, cupboards etc, put fresh paper and neem leaves (to keep the silverfish out), re-ordered books by author, genre, country and unavailability (most precious and out of print books were hidden away in top cupboards to discourage borrowing). At that time, I had piles of books all over my bedroom floor, so that the only way to get from this side to that was to climb over the bed.

Ok, so I'm bragging a little. But mostly I'm in a panic, because I'm remembering books I know I have but can't immediately recall where I've put them. Like that book without a cover that I picked up at Abids one Sunday more than a decade ago, called A Pocketful of Ribaldry. Once this starts to happen I'm in trouble, because it usually means waking up at 2am in a cold sweat and wondering if, in a fit of madness, I'd agreed to lend my copy of, say, The Film Till Now to the local film club.

(I'm kidding. I don't lend books. To anyone.)

Last book bought

The Speaking Tree by Richard Lannoy. At Fountain. Of course, the only Speaking Tree I knew anything about until five years ago, was that very annoying column in The Times of India. Then, when I was editing a journal which had a paper by Richard Lannoy, I heard of this book. Haven't started to read it; wonder if it might have dated in the 36 years since it was written. I shall find out, shan't I?

Last book read

We're not counting Greenwitch, are we? That took me all of an hour and a half. Let's see...ah yes. Kamila Shamsie's In The City By The Sea. This must be one of the few times I've started at the beginning of a writer's work (when they've written more than one book and one can choose, of course. I'm not talking about first books where, by default you begin at the beginning).

There's this lovely bit towards the end of the book, where the young boy, Hasan, is in a thoughtful mood. His cousin, Zehra, is not very encouraging; especially not of potentially purple poetry. I've been wanting to post this for a bit, so here it is:

‘There’s something really wonderful about this,’ he said. ‘I mean, its so simple, it’s moving, you know?”

Zehra raised her eyebrows. ‘Oh god, you’re going to turn into one of those boys who write poems entitled “For I Have Seen The Miracle Of Sunsets” at the age of sixteen and never have more than three words in a line.”

This three-words-in-a-line indictment is something I'm going to use very soon, somewhere. I can just feel it.

Five books that mean a lot to you

I'd rather amswer the question, What's your favourite colour. I mean, really! 'ean a lot'because of what the book's about, or because of how rare it is, or because of what someone wrote in it, or because what it cost you to buy it? All of these things make of a book something more tahn its contents. But whatever...

Eric Rhodes' A History of the Cinema.

In class 9, when reading history for fun was a very startling idea, we had to do a project on any subject of our choice. Three of us chose Film, because we thought it meant sitting and watching films for one week, and what could be more fun? We were right. But we also had a lot of reading to do, and history never read better. Every title, every name was a litany, an enchantment: Berlin, Symphony of a City. Murnau, Caligari, Kuleshov, Vertov, Einsentein, Pudovkin. Even today, I know I will recognise these films, should I ever manage to see them, just by their descriptions. I will know early Surrealist Cinema; I will see UFA in early German cinema and expand it in my sleep into Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft.

Scaramouche (first edition)

The long story here

Letters To A Young Poet, Rilke.

What can I say? There are some books that are like Bibles. I know some people who have claimed that Jonathan Livingston Seagull was their Bible. Thankfully, I am not of their number.

The Archy and Mehitabel Omnibus

For the longest time, when I was in college, one pavement seller, I think in F Block, CP, used to have Archy and Mehitabel. I used to pick it up each time, turn it over, read a poem or two and ask the guy how much it was. His answer never varied, no matter how pathetic I looked, and it was always unaffordable.

Two years ago, when my friend, Sampurna came to stay for a few days, I told her this story. What are the odds that among the few things she was carrying in her shoulder bag (for a stay of five days! How does anyone do it?!) was this book? And what are the odds that she would feel generous enough to give it away?


All the Saints, Edgar Wallaces, Sabatinis and some other books

No really. How to calibrate the worth of these rare - if low-brow - books? In this category are also the children's book you won't have even heard of: Chronicles of Pantouflia by Andrew Lang and At The Back of the North Wind by George McDonald; the Richard Armours - It All Started With Eve, It All Started With Columbus (though, to my eternal regret, not Twisted Tales From Shakespeare). And Sellar and Yeatman's wonderful 1066 And All That.

Who Do I Tag?

Anyone who wants to take it up. Just let me know, though and I'll link it up.


equivocal said...

Thanks for the tip about Archy and Mehitabel. Had never heard of them! Interesting stuff.

Space Bar said...

Equivocal: No kidding. I've updated with a link to the Don Marquis site. Go see.

Falstaff said...

Okay, this is going to sound like blasphemy, but I've never understood what the big deal about Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is. Personally I think it's overblown and sentimental and preachy - his poetry is so much more inspiring and instructive.

Alok said...

don't tell me... you saw Murnau, Caligari and Vertov in class 9?

Cheshire Cat said...

I'm a little jealous about the Lang. Many of his stories are available on Wikipedia, but not "Chronices of Pantouflia", at least not yet. The children's book I covet the most is Eleanor Farjeon's "Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field".

I hadn't heard of Armour before - he sounds a proper quirk.

BTW, it's "Yeatman", not "Yateman". The best title for a cricket book I know of is Arthur Mailey's "Ten for 66 and All That".

Space Bar said...

Falstaff: Blasphemy! My religious sentiments are deeply hurt!

Alok: Of course not. That's the point - reading these histories made me feel as if I had. Vertov and co. came much later!

Cat: Oops! Typo! Will post some Armour.